It's a fairy tale for the YouTube generation: a boy posts videos of himself jamming to Justin Timberlake on his webcam, gets discovered by a major producer, attracts an army of Twitter followers, becomes a pop sensation, and lives happily ever after. But for 14-year-old Cody Simpson, the goofy-smiled, blonde-haired singer from Australia who exploded onto the pop scene soon after he first starting posting YouTube videos in the summer of 2009, this is reality. Now, after an infectious hit single featuring Flo Rida (seriously, who doesn't love "iYiYi"?) and two EPs, Cody is taking time out to help other aspiring musicians through their own paths to stardom on Radio Disney’s Next Big Thing.
Cody recently jammed with the Season 4 N.B.T. artists to kick off round two of the talent competition, offering words of wisdom to the four remaining artists: 16-year old country singer Tay Barton from Salt Lake City, 14-year-old pop singer Zack Montana from Tampa, 13-year-old pop singer Shealeigh from Chicago, and pop/rock band Hollywood Ending, made up of five members, ages 17 and 18, from the East Coast and the UK. The winner of the show will have their single released by Disney Music Group, and they'll get to play in a concert (which Cody will be headlining!) on December 7.
Do you want to be the next YouTube star? We chatted with the teen heartthrob to get some insider advice on how to become a pop star, Cody Simpson style.
1. Be a self-starter.
Cody: Most of my dedication and motivation to my career comes from a personal drive of wanting to be the best that I can be. I don’t have a specific mentor, it’s more my own personal thing. I get lots of advice from my parents and different people that I’m close to in the industry like my manager, but it’s all within the team.
2. Work with Justin Bieber’s manager.
Cody: [Working with Scooter Braun] has been really cool. I’ve been talking to him for a while and he’s always been there encouraging me… He’s someone that’s amazingly talented and very successful in the industry, and someone that I’ve definitely created a friendship with too. We have some great plans for next year. I’m excited.
3. Don’t try to be Justin Bieber.
Cody: I want to have my own style. I want to be my own artist. [Comparisons to Justin Bieber] don’t annoy me because he’s been so successful and it’s so much in the family now. People make it out to be that there’s some sort of rivalry or competition or animosity between us, and I’m obviously a newer artist. It’s a much more friendly and supportive thing than people realize. We’re all just doing our own thing and having fun.
4. Get a massive Twitter following.
Cody: I got into Twitter about two years ago when I was back in Australia – I thought it was a cool new social networking thing. I’m always on the Internet and up-to-date with all the stuff that’s out there so I just discovered it and thought that I’d make an account. When the music started happening, it was a great way to talk to the fans.
5. Tweet out an Instagram photo that makes you the number-four trending topic worldwide.
Cody: I posted this photo on Instagram of my friend Billy and I, and we’re shirtless. “TAKE IT OFF CODY” was the trending topic that came off of that. It was really unexpected and just really funny.
6. Become an anti-bullying activist.
Cody: I have been working a bit with Defeat the Label -- they’re a great anti-bullying campaign. They approach a serious subject in a cool way, and I was really drawn to that. Bullying is something that I’ve seen first-hand. I went to a regular school and I saw that happen to kids and how much it affected them. It’s something that’s close to my heart and I want to change it… I have a song in the works, as well, related to [bullying].
7. Get people excited about your awesome new album.
Cody: It’s my third day back and we’ve already done two amazing songs. I honestly think that every time I get back into the studio to work on a new project that I have higher expectations. We’re writing better songs and I’m just really excited for my first full-length album to come out. It’s going to be something that I’m really proud of. Lots of the music is really guitar-influenced, lots of the music is really laid-back, and some of it you can definitely get up and move to as well. There are lots of organic sorts of sounds. It’s something that everyone will enjoy –- I want kids to love it and even for their parents to be able to listen to it, too.
8. Share your know-how with aspiring young artists.
Cody: It was really cool to be working with these young artists with these dreams on Radio Disney’s Next Big Thing because that’s how I still am and how I was a year ago. To give my advice to them and to encourage them –- it’s really cool to see that because I was in the same position.
They all performed for me and shared their specific talents with me, like Zack is dance and Tay plays country songs on her guitar. With Zack I was telling him that he should make sure he keeps his stamina and endurance up because when you’re dancing and singing onstage it can be very taxing, and it’s hard if you’re doing a long set onstage. With Tay, I was telling her to keep on practicing guitar and take it everywhere with her and get comfortable so that it’s just like second nature when she’s onstage. There are so many things that can distract you, so you have to be prepared for anything that comes at you.
Check out the special N.B.T. segment with Cody Simpson which is currently airing on both Radio Disney and the Disney Channel through this Friday, November 11, 2011. Radio Disney and Disney Channel audiences are invited to look, listen and vote for their favorite artist at RadioDisney.com or on the Radio Disney Facebook page, or text* "NBT" to DISNEY (347639). And don’t miss Cody in the N.B.T. winner concert on December 7!